Monday, June 28, 2010

Dutch Treat

As you may know, the US Army is not the only national force of NATO's International Security Force (ISAF) operating from Tarin Kowt.

There are also contingents of Afghanis, Australians, Dutch and others. Each living in their respective, somewhat adjoining, compounds; the ultimate in exclusive gated communities with the very best of armed response units.

The Dutch compound is appropriately called "Kamp Holland" although, in addition to the Dutch, also has Australians, Slovakians, etc.

Perhaps it was the speckled desert uniforms, or maybe the accents, or it could have been the numerous, dusty brown tents and the style of the semi-permanent buildings interlaced with hard-packed rocky dirt roads, but when I was visiting Kamp Holland the other day, I kept thinking of the movie "District 9".

Not that I was expecting to see aliens (extraterrestrial ones, I mean) hunched over cans (tins) of cat food, but the vibe I got was more of a town than a military installation.

The reason I was there was to enjoy a congratulatory meal at the Dutch "cafe'" - Echoes - bought for me by my section Warrant Officer for my above 270 score on the recent PT Test; he is real good about recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of his Soldiers - not something all leadership practices.

Echoes is a purposely dimly lit collection of wooden floor rooms inside a large tent where there are several benches, numerous 2/4-seater tables, a couch in front of a decent sized television (tuned to the World Cup), a couple of magazine racks, and bookcases with mostly Dutch paperbacks for trade/borrow.

There are various European/Australian wall hangings and no windows, so it is easy to imagine you are not in a combat zone. Well, except for the military uniforms and people carrying rifles, knives and other weapons. Okay, maybe not so easy, but it is certainly a much different atmosphere than the US Army mess hall (pardon me, "dining facility") and truly a treat to be able to order from a menu with meals singularly prepared versus mass-produced food served from large metal warming trays.

Chief and I placed our order at the counter; I got the chicken schnitzel with mushroom gravy, a side salad and french fries (chips), and he had something similar. Our number was called and we picked-up our actual ceramic plates, not a cardboard TV-dinner-like tray, and plastic flatware along with 20 or so ketchup packets. Chief mixed in mayo with his ketchup for his fries, but I wasn't sure if this was his usual habit or just staying with the quasi-European motif.

The food itself was not really a culinary spectacle, but the whole experience was a nice break from the norm and we had a nice chat for a while before Chief got a call on his mobile reminding him of an obligation he needed to attend so we mopped up the last of our ketchup (and mayo), bussed our dishes and headed "home".

All in all, it was a very nice break from the day-to-day-to-day-etc. routine and something I will try to do every couple of weeks. Of course, I will have to buy my own meal next time, so it will be in all ways a Dutch Treat.

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